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Jack Higgins (born 27 July 1929) is the principal pseudonym of UK novelist Harry Patterson. Patterson is the author of more than 60 novels. As Higgins, most have been thrillers of various types and, since his breakthrough novel The Eagle Has Landed in 1975, nearly all have been bestsellers. The Eagle Has Landed sold over fifty million copies.
Patterson was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. He moved to Belfast, Northern Ireland, with his mother after his parents' marriage foundered, and was raised there amid religious and political violence. First in Belfast and later in Leeds, Patterson proved to be an indifferent student and left school without completing his studies.
He found a home in the British Army, however, and served two years as a non-commissioned officer in the Household Cavalry (the Blues and Royals) on the East German border during the 1950s. Patterson found, during his military service, that he possessed both considerable sharpshooting skills and considerable intelligence (scoring 147 on an army intelligence test).
After leaving the army, he returned to education, studying sociology at London School of Economics and Political Science while supporting himself as a driver and labourer. After completing his degree, he worked for a time as a teacher at Allerton Grange Secondary School Leeds and began writing novels in 1959. He taught Liberal Studies at Leeds Polytechnic, and later Education at James Graham College (which became part of Leeds Polytechnic in 1976). One of Patterson's aliases was James Graham. The growing success of his early work allowed him to take time off from his teaching, and he eventually left the classroom to become a full-time novelist. He currently lives in Jersey, in the Channel Islands, and continues to publish a new novel annually.
Patterson's family includes daughter Sarah Patterson, who has also worked as a writer, penning the novel The Distant Summer in 1976.
Patterson's early novels, written under his own name as well as under the pseudonyms James Graham, Martin Fallon, and Hugh Marlowe, are brisk, competent, but essentially forgettable thrillers that typically feature hardened, cynical heroes, ruthless villains, and dangerous locales. Patterson published thirty-five such novels (sometimes three or four a year) between 1959 and 1974, learning his craft. East of Desolation (1968), A Game for Heroes (1970) and The Savage Day (1972) stand out among his early work for their vividly drawn settings (Greenland, the Channel Islands, and Belfast, respectively) and offbeat plots.
Patterson began using the pseudonym Jack Higgins in the late 1960s; his first minor bestsellers appeared in the early 1970s, two contemporary thrillers The Savage Day and A Prayer For The Dying but it was the publication of his thirty sixth book The Eagle Has Landed in 1975 that made Higgins' reputation. The Eagle Has Landed represented a step forward in the length and depth of Patterson's work. Its plot (concerned with a German commando unit sent into England to kidnap Winston Churchill) was fresh and innovative (although the plot is clearly reminiscent of Alberto Cavalcanti's wartime film Went the Day Well?, which itself was directly based on the 1942 Graham Greene short story The Lieutenant Died Last), and the characters had significantly more depth than in his earlier work. One in particular stood out: Irish gunman, poet, and philosopher Liam Devlin. Higgins followed The Eagle Has Landed with a series of equally ambitious thrillers, including several (Touch the Devil, Confessional, The Eagle Has Flown) featuring return appearances by Devlin.
The third phase of Patterson's career began with the publication of Eye of the Storm in 1992, a fictionalized retelling of an unsuccessful mortar attack on Prime Minister John Major by a ruthless young Irish gunman-philosopher named Sean Dillon, hired by an Iraqi millionaire. Cast as the central character over the next series of novels it is apparent that Dillon is in many ways an amalgamation of Patterson's previous heroes — Chavasse with his flair for languages, Nick Miller's familiarity with martial arts and jazz keyboard skills, Simon Vaughan's Irish roots, facility with firearms and the cynicism that comes with assuming the responsibility of administering a justice unavailable through a civilized legal system.
(written with Justin Richards)
Films adapted from the novels.
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